Although the Ohio State football team has sustained losses to unranked opponents in previous years, the 24-21 loss on Saturday to the Penn State Nittany Lions is a tough one to take for fans. For players like freshman starting guard Michael Jordan and freshman defensive end Nick Bosa, the defeat is their first in their collegiate careers, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Going through a tough loss early in a career can be a motivation for improving upon the mistakes. Presenting a young team against Virginia Tech in 2014, OSU suffered a potentially season-ruining loss to the Hokies.
After starting the year 1-1, the Buckeyes responded with 13-straight wins by an average margin of victory of just over 26 points. A youthful team responded to adversity with open arms, allowing themselves to grow from the loss to a team deemed subpar to OSU.
OSU coach Urban Meyer said on Monday that the loss is not season ending, and needs to be a lesson for the young members of the team.
“Move forward,” he said. “Let it hurt for awhile.”
The feeling of losing is new to more than one of the team members, but slip ups from the unit were expected. The fact the Buckeyes are still within the top 10, and have the chance to still make the playoffs with a team full of young players serves as a beacon of hope.
Both veterans and underclassmen were visibly upset as they left the field. Sophomore right tackle Isaiah Prince was fighting back tears while walking off, along with redshirt senior center Pat Elflein, who spoke to the media with a heavy voice.
A fifth-year player, Elflein has been through all five of Meyer’s loses while at OSU. Even though the loss stings, he said it is something the young members of the team need to experience and use to keep playoff hopes alive.
“Something you don’t want to feel, but you got to remember that feeling,” Elflein said. “That’s what has got to power you through, that feeling right there. You never want to feel that again.”
Unlike the team’s only loss of 2015, the Buckeyes dropped their first game of the year at the midway point. With time still left on the clock, OSU can easily regroup and get back on the right path.
The youth of the team might have caused OSU problems, but can also help the team down the road. The team understood there would be growing pains, and there would be times the young players would need to step up when faced with a challenge.
Against Oklahoma, most fans felt the team had it’s largest moment of growth. In retrospect, the loss to Penn State should serve as a coming of age moment for the Buckeyes.
Redshirt junior guard Billy Price, who played against Penn State in 2014 in Beaver Stadium, said he understood the feelings the young players were going through. However, he said the youth of the team is not the problem.
“We are young, we are young. There are a lot of young guys in there. They’re playing well,” Price said. “They have to play for us and they have to execute. If we don’t execute that’s where we have issues like this.”
Rather than singling out the poor play of specific players, Price said the loss was on the team as a whole, and its inability to execute the gameplan to perfection. He, like other Buckeyes, said this is a growing moment.
Like in 2014, the team will be attempting to regroup from a loss at the hands of a non-ranked opponent. But, the loss was expected in some regards, due to the young nature of the team.
Just like two years ago when the team went on a rampage after losing, OSU will have to prove the legitimacy of the team by winning games in convincing fashion. And, just like the national championship season, young players and new starters will have to give it their all.
And giving it all was a sentiment redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett expressed explicitly on Monday.
“We’re gonna find out what we’re made of,” he said. “I think that’s how you really see people. Anybody can be doing fine when we’re winning games, but when your back is against the wall, things are going against us, that shows your true character and true colors.”